Do you know of a person who collects so much stuff they can’t use a room in their home for its regular purpose? Well then, they might touch first base as a compulsive hoarder. Although there are other boxes we need to tick when we view compulsive hoarding through a social science lens.
Why Must Hoarding Cause Distress to Qualify for Diagnosis?
The social sciences view the human condition from two different perspectives. These points are:
- The situation from the point of view of the individual person in the role
- The situation taking account of the social environment in which they live
We can’t go about criticizing people just because their homes are cluttered. They or the people they interact with must be at reasonable risk of harm, before we may have a right to interfere in their lives to the extent of clearing a hoarder’s house that might look like this:
We have often wondered down the years how a person ended up living in a home with the health safety and fire risks in that photo. We learned it’s an unfolding process that could be triggered by historic trauma – or a chromosome abnormality making it harder to process information and reach decisions.
Drilling Down Into Compulsive Hoarding through a Social Science Lens
We are indebted to Julie Pike for some of the ideas in this post. Julie is a licensed psychologist with extensive training. Julie says an inherited abnormality on Chromosome 14 may be the root cause. Moreover this links across to other disorders including attention-deficit / hyperactivity and other anxiety conditions.
However, when we examine compulsive hoarding through a social science lens there’s a second factor to consider. This is compelling evidence the condition may have its roots in a historically traumatic experience. Compulsive hoarding could therefore also be the outward sign of deep-rooted emotional pain that seems will never end.
However, the motivation of the actor in the drama also plays an important role too. A person who abandons their sitting room to a mint collection of vintage porcelain is at worst an over-enthusiastic clutterer. Whereas there may be no apparent reason for a compulsive hoarder to insist their chaotic house be left alone.
Does Hoarding Deserve to Be Treated as an Addiction?
Julie Pike believes this is possible. Television shows making a mockery of hoarding hardly contribute to a positive self-evaluation. Having friends and relatives wanting to clear the hoarder’s house of what they insist is useless junk can be a nail in the coffin of self-despair.
Perhaps we should view hoarders as addicts who get a pleasure-releasing dopamine kick each time they view, or add to their collection. We may begin to appreciate how they view their possessions as near-sacred when we examine compulsive hoarding through a social science lens. And understand why they defend them so forcefully from attempts to clear their hoarders house.
Clearing a hoarded house against the person’s will is one of harshest things we can do. Our house clearances generally occur after the hoarder has passed on, in order to complete a fair and objective probate valuation of their assets.
Then What Is the Best Way to Solve a Hoarding Problem?
We ask that question tongue in cheek. Just because a person is different is not sufficient reason to want to change them. Personality is moreover deeply embedded. Therefore it is more a question of adapting things from both sides, so the hoarder can function within society as best as they can.
We can wring our hands and say ‘We have a problem. It’s time to think about clearing your hoarded house’ as often as we like. But a compulsive hoarder considers their lifestyle is normal, and indeed it is from their side. There has to be a better way to go about things rather than forcing the issue.
How to View Compulsive Hoarding through a Social Science Lens
When we view compulsive hoarding through a social science lens other possibilities emerge. We realize we need to understand what’s happening from the perspective of the person hoarding. They believe their possessions have future value and they are being responsible by hanging on to them. To them, it’s the smart thing to do.
The person who clung to that little red sports car probably believed they were being smart, because it would become a valuable collectible in due course. For all we know it already has, although we suspect the vast majority of the population might regard it as tin for the crusher.
Perhaps the car owner did not like empty spaces and had a need to fill them with things. We should ask ourselves a question ‘Whose problem is that?”. It was after all their garage until they passed on.
Some Bottom-Line Questions to Ask Before Clearing a Hoarders House
Is compulsive hoarding society’s problem, because its norms are flouted, or is it the hoarder’s because their home is a health safety or fire risk? Do we have a right to make it our concern because we feel uncomfortable when things are not going the way we believe they should?
Compulsive Hoarding through a Social Science Lens Is a Complex Situation
That’s the position taken by Julie Pike, the licensed psychologist with extensive training whose ideas we are sharing. The condition is complex, she says because there’s a genetic component compounded by social issues. Common factors she encounters are:
- Having a first-degree relative who is / was a compulsive hoarder
- A past trauma that makes a hoarder feel safer surrounded by their stuff
- Having a sense of emptiness and filling it with comforting possessions
We are only just beginning to view compulsive hoarding through a social science lens. It is a complex condition that may also have a chromosomal trigger too. However, we have at least reached the point where we understand there as a difference, not a pathological condition.
In fact, Julie says compulsive hoarders are vastly more likely to be friendly, gregarious people, and generous to a fault. This is a long walk away from the perception of all hoarder’s being secretively reclusive. Of course there are some that are, but it is not an essential condition.
Do You Need Help with Clearing a Hoarders House?
Avery Associates has teams of house clearance specialists able to assist throughout England and Wales. We also do probate valuations and general house clearances. We offer a discreet, RICS compliant service that takes the administrative weight off the shoulders of friends and relatives after their special person passes on.
You are most welcome to call us on 0800 567 7769 or from mobile 0208 640 00 44. You can also leave a message when convenient by clicking to our contact page here.